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Monitoring Your Labs

At least once every month, your dialysis team will draw your blood for a series of lab tests. Your doctor will compare the results to those of previous tests to monitor your dialysis treatment and determine if any adjustments are necessary.

Know Your Kidney Function Numbers

Even if you’re not a “numbers” person, it’s important to have a basic understanding of your hemodialysis labs and kidney function numbers. This way, you can know if you’re meeting your goals or if there is anything you need to do to help improve your results.

The top two indicators: Kt/V and URR

While there are several tests that monitor your kidney function and overall health, Kt/V and URR are key ways to monitor the effectiveness of your dialysis treatment: 

should be at least 1.2 or above—Kt/V stands for clearance multiplied by time divided by volume. This ratio allows your doctor to understand how well waste has been removed by your dialysis treatment.
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URR should be at least 65%—URR stands for urea reduction ratio. It is a percentage based on how much blood urea nitrogen (BUN) was removed during a dialysis treatment. It indicates how effectively urea and other waste products have been removed from your blood.

When Kt/V and URR are low

If your Kt/V and URR numbers are below the recommended levels, your doctor will adjust your dialysis treatment to improve waste removal from your blood by:

  • Checking to make sure you have good vascular access

  • Increasing the blood flow rate through the dialyzer 

  • Increasing the duration of dialysis—for example, if your treatments have been 3 hours in length, they may be increased to 4 hours 

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Your lab tests and what they track

While Kt/V and URR are important, they’re not the only tests you need to know about.

Below is a basic chart of common blood tests for people receiving dialysis. Your tests may be similar. The chart shows what the tests measure, but you should ask your nurse or doctor to explain your tests in more detail. And be sure to ask them what your lab test goals are. If you’re not meeting your goals, ask what you can do to improve your results.

Know your labs

Lab Tests: Dialysis Treatment Heart Health Bone Health Nutrition
  What the test measures
Hemoglobin (hgb)      
Potassium (K)    
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